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Pilot and passenger from San Francisco plead guilty in west Texas to federal drug charges

LUBBOCK, Texas — Two men, who flew into Lubbock Aero airport on the evening of April 17, pleaded guilty Thursday to one count of possession with intent to distribute more than 50 kilograms, but less than 100 kilograms, of marijuana.

This investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), U.S. Customs and Border Protection's (CBP) Air Interdiction, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Lubbock Police Department.

Michael Gallanter, 48, and Ethan Oliver Wynne-Wade, 31, both residents of San Francisco, Calif., each face a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in federal prison and a $1 million fine. U.S. District Judge Sam R. Cummings ordered presentence investigation reports with sentencing dates to be set after those reports are completed. Both men remain on bond. These guilty pleas were announced by U.S. Attorney Sarah R. Saldaña of the Northern District of Texas.

Gallanter and Wynne-Wade were arrested after their arrival in Lubbock and charged in a federal criminal complaint. Subsequently, on May 15, 2013, a federal grand jury in Lubbock indicted them for possession with intent to distribute marijuana, hashish and psilocin/psilocybin.

According to documents filed in the case, CBP's Air Interdiction agents had received information that a Piper PA28-181 aircraft, tail number N342TA, was operating under suspicious circumstances. The aircraft occupants paid for their fuel with cash, fueled their own plane, had a large amount of luggage in the aircraft's passenger compartment and departed in poor weather conditions. The agents also had information that the aircraft had been rented from the Travis Air Force Base Aero Club in Rio Vista, Calif., where some individuals renting aircraft were breaking flight rules and procedures.

CBP launched a Citation Interceptor Jet to locate the aircraft. On April 17, 2013, at about 10:15 p.m., CBP Air Interdiction agents contacted the aircraft to conduct a ramp check as it was about to refuel at Lubbock Aero, a refueling location located at the Lubbock International Airport. Agents identified Gallanter as the pilot and Wynne-Wade as the passenger.

CBP Air Interdiction agents met Gallanter as he deplaned and per their request, Gallanter provided them with the appropriate flight paperwork. After a drug detector dog alerted to the presence of drugs, the plane was then searched by federal agents. Agents located six large military-style duffle bags and four smaller bags inside the passenger compartment. Agents opened the bags and located 98 plastic bags of marijuana, four plastic bags of hashish and two plastic bags of psilocin mushrooms. In total, agents located about 69 kilograms (152 pounds) of marijuana, four kilograms (nine pounds) of hashish, and 1.37 kilograms (three pounds) of psilocin mushrooms.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin Cunningham, Northern District of Texas, is in charge of the prosecution.